I’m compelled to make the comparison of Hugo and The Artist, two movies about early film-making. I know I’m supposed to adore the movie The Artist. I know I’m supposed to think of it as an elegant and engaging salute to silent film. I know if I write a review in which I say it is one of the most self-serving, self-congratulatory bits Hollywood has ever created, that I will be decried as a film philistine.
But when I’m sitting in a darkened movie theater with my two movie-going-buddies and my attention is riveted on finding another square of dark chocolate in the bottom of my purse, and then realize the friend on my left has fallen asleep and the friend on my right is clandestinely texting, it signals to me that the disconnect between screen and viewer is more than my own bias. What is there to admire about flat characters and a predictable plot? A stereotype by any other name would taste as stale.
Hugo was quite another matter. It, too, involves a celebration of the history of movie-making, but it never over-shadowed the story. I cared about the characters and I was completely invested in the plot. After I had taken one daughter and family to see it, I had to take another daughter and family to the 3-D version. I, who prefer never to see a movie twice, also read the book. In fact, I’d use the book version of Hugo for a text in my children’s literature courses at the university if it weren’t so darn pricey.
Here’s my question, dear reader: Suppose you’re the director of a re-make in, say, 2020, how would you change The Artist to make it deserve the adulation it got in 2011?